Explore your world on the eve of war
41 million people recorded in one day on the eve of WWII
The 1939 Register will be launched online on November 2nd by Findmypast.com in association with The National Archives. Dubbed ‘The Wartime Domesday Book’, it is the most comprehensive survey of the population of England and Wales ever taken
On November 2nd 2015, the eagerly awaited 1939 Register will be launched online by Findmypast, a world leader in family history. Anyone can now discover their family, their home and their community on the eve of WWII. Until now, the most recent information available was the 1911 census. Owing to the 100 year rule, the 1921 census will not be released until 2022, while the 1931 census was destroyed in the war and the 1941 census was never taken. The 1939 Register therefore bridges an important 30-year gap in history.
In September 1939, WWII had just broken out. 65,000 enumerators were employed to visit every house in England and Wales to take stock of the civil population. The information that they recorded was used to issue Identity Cards, plan mass evacuations, establish rationing and co-ordinate other war-time provisions. In the longer term, the 1939 Register would go on to play a central role in the establishment of post-war services like the NHS.
Comprising 1.2 million pages in 7,000 volumes and documenting the lives of 41 million people, the 1939 Register opens a window to a world on the brink of cataclysmic change. Each record includes the names of inhabitants at each address, their date of birth, marital status and occupation. A wealth of contextual information, including period photographs never before seen online, infographics, region-specific newspaper articles and historical and contemporary maps, are personally tailored to each record, offering a rich and unique user experience unrivalled by any other family history research tool to date.
Findmypast has undertaken a monumental task in digitising the 1939 Register. Stacked end-to-end, the hard copy volumes would have reached twice the height of St Paul’s Cathedral. Work on conserving, scanning, transcribing and digitising the Register has been ongoing for more than a year. Despite the challenge of translating 65,000 unique sets of handwriting, including updates that have been made by hand up until 1991, Findmypast guarantees at least 98.5% accuracy of readable records. The result is a direct route to the past that will allow users to glimpse their family, their home and their communities in 1939, as they’ve never seen them before.
Paul Nixon, military expert at Findmypast says: “The 1939 Register is one of the most important documents of modern British history. It allows us to see where our relatives were living, with whom and what jobs they did at the start of World War II. To help people understand the period better and to create a picture of our world in 1939, we have added a range of contextual information to bring the records to life. Maps, photographs, newspapers, and infographics will immerse the user in the period and give a flavour of what life was like for our parents or grandparents.”
Audrey Collins, family history records specialist at The National Archives says: “The release of the 1939 Register is one of the most important events in family history in a long time. The significance of these documents cannot be underplayed; they provide a snapshot of life on the eve of war. The online publication of the 1939 Register offers us the chance to understand where our families came from, who lived in our neighbourhood, and how it has changed over the years.”
The 1939 Register is available online only at http://www.findmypast.com/. The Register is free to search but there is a charge to view the records with different pay per view packages starting at £6.95. Owing to data protection, there will be some closed records at the time of launch, either because the individual recorded is still living and less than 100 years old or proof of death has not been verified. At time of launch 28 million records will be searchable. The Register will be updated weekly. Findmypast, working with The National Archives, will have an ongoing process to identify records which can be opened on proof of death provided either by matching against robust data sets or supplied by users. Records will also be opened as people reach the age of 100 years+1 day.
Findmypast (previously DC Thomson Family History) is a British-owned world leader in online family history. It has an unrivalled record of online innovation in the field and 18 million registered users across its family of online brands, which includes Lives of the First World War, The British Newspaper Archive and Genes Reunited, amongst others.
Its lead brand, also called Findmypast, is a searchable online archive of over four billion family history records, ranging from parish records and censuses to migration records, military collections, historical newspapers and lots more. For members around the world, the site is a crucial resource for building family trees and conducting detailed historical research.
In April 2003, Findmypast was the first online genealogy site to provide access to the complete birth, marriage, and death indexes for England & Wales, winning the Queen’s Award for Innovation. Since that time, the company has digitised records from across the globe, including the 1911 Census which they digitised in association with The National Archives.
About The National Archives
The National Archives is one of the world’s most valuable resources for research. As the official archive and publisher for the UK government, and England and Wales they are the guardians of some of the UK's most iconic national documents, dating back over 1,000 years. Their role is to collect and secure the future of the government record, both digital and physical, to preserve it for generations to come, and to make it as accessible and available as possible. The National Archives brings together the skills and specialisms needed to conserve some of the oldest historic documents as well as leading digital archive practices to manage and preserve government information past, present and future.